drawing by Tom Woolley


On a warm summer night about sixteen years ago, when Nigel was twenty months old, I suddenly woke up and knew that my son was sleepwalking. I hadn’t heard a thing; the house was silent. But I awoke with this flash of knowledge, this awareness. I got out of bed and walked out to the hallway, and there in the darkness I could see his small form walking through the living room. I went over to him and gently guided him back to his room. He lay back down in his bed and it seemed that he would stay, so I returned to mine, wondering how on earth I knew. What had caused me to wake up out of a sound sleep and instantly have that knowledge?

I told myself it was the instinct to protect my child, this biological drive (waking up) accompanied by an instant awareness. I didn’t think it qualified as intuition because I didn’t intuit anything, but the more I think about it, it actually was a combination of the two – intuistinct.

In later years, it would come to me right before Nigel would have a seizure, even if he was in a different room. I would experience some sort of brief physiological occurrence without provocation – an abdominal pulling, an increased heart rate – and then the knowledge would come to me. Seizure! Seconds later I would hear him fall to the floor.

How is that possible? That I would have known beforehand without the aid of my other senses? That my body would react before the awareness even came to me? I think I have spent the last (nearly) eighteen years of parenthood wondering. Because it’s not regular intuition – sure, I have plenty of that. I’m certain that all attentive parents have experienced that. But this biological pre-response, whether waking up, stomach lurching, or heart flapping, is what perplexes me. Nothing has happened yet and I have not yet intuited anything, so where does it come from?

I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied with the acceptance that it’s one of life’s mysteries. Perhaps, in some situations, a divine intervention. A wake-up call from the collective unconscious. A nudge from an angel. A whisper from God.


It’s a warm summer night again, almost eighteen years later. Nigel is watching a documentary on prehistoric animals, rife with instinct. Right now, my intuition tells me it’s going to be a relaxed evening. Should I experience a physiological instinct to cause me to intuit otherwise, I’ll know what to do. Whatever it may be – this intuistinct – I’m awed and grateful. It reminds me that we’re connected to something greater than ourselves – and to each other.

6 thoughts on “Intuistinct

  1. I laughingly refer to myself as a human seizure dog as I’ve always sat straight up in bed during the night right before Sophie has a seizure, and I can almost sense a change in the air the instant before she has one in the day-time as well. I like the term “intuinstinct” better, though.

  2. I love your new term for this phenomena, you’re definitely on to something! I t goes beyond maternal instincts or ‘mum knows best’!

    xx Jazzy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *